The LWOT: Phone hacking linked to terrorist activity

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Phone hacking linked to terrorist activity

Police in the Philippines on November 23 arrested four people for their suspected involvement in a $2 million telephone scam targeting customers of AT&T that provided funds to a Saudi-based terrorist organization accused of funding the devastating 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people (Guardian, Reuters, AP). The suspects were allegedly working on commission for a terrorist group that provided financial support to the Mumbai attackers and believed to be run currently by a Saudi national, but originally linked to Muhammad Zamir, a Pakistani national arrested in Italy in 2007 suspected of being a member of the South Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.

German police on November 24 and November 29 arrested two new suspects identified as Andre E. and Ralf W. respectively, who are suspected of supporting the recently discovered neo-Nazi group believed to have committed at least 10 murders and multiple other attacks over more than a decade (AP, Tel, Deutsche Welle, AP, AFP). In 2002, Ralf W. became the deputy head of Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NDP), a political party that an overwhelming 77% of Germans now want banned, according to a poll released on November 25 (Deutsche Welle, AFP). German Prime Minister Angela Merkel said in an emotional speech to parliament on November 23 that the government is "horrified by the extent of this hatred and racism," and that the discovery of the neo-Nazi group is "a danger to [Germany's] standing in the world" (Reuters). Reuters' Madeline Chambers digs into the impact that the acknowledgment of the right-wing extremist threat has had on Germany (Reuters).

Phone hacking linked to terrorist activity

Police in the Philippines on November 23 arrested four people for their suspected involvement in a $2 million telephone scam targeting customers of AT&T that provided funds to a Saudi-based terrorist organization accused of funding the devastating 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people (Guardian, Reuters, AP). The suspects were allegedly working on commission for a terrorist group that provided financial support to the Mumbai attackers and believed to be run currently by a Saudi national, but originally linked to Muhammad Zamir, a Pakistani national arrested in Italy in 2007 suspected of being a member of the South Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.

German police on November 24 and November 29 arrested two new suspects identified as Andre E. and Ralf W. respectively, who are suspected of supporting the recently discovered neo-Nazi group believed to have committed at least 10 murders and multiple other attacks over more than a decade (AP, Tel, Deutsche Welle, AP, AFP). In 2002, Ralf W. became the deputy head of Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party (NDP), a political party that an overwhelming 77% of Germans now want banned, according to a poll released on November 25 (Deutsche Welle, AFP). German Prime Minister Angela Merkel said in an emotional speech to parliament on November 23 that the government is "horrified by the extent of this hatred and racism," and that the discovery of the neo-Nazi group is "a danger to [Germany’s] standing in the world" (Reuters). Reuters’ Madeline Chambers digs into the impact that the acknowledgment of the right-wing extremist threat has had on Germany (Reuters).

British Members of Parliament on November 24 held a debate at Westminster Hall over the case of Babar Ahmad, who has been held without charge in the United Kingdom for seven years fighting extradition to the United States and is accused by U.S. prosecutors of being a fundraiser for terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and Chechnya through a website he managed from London but was technically based in the United States (BBC). The MPs learned that the U.S. evidence in the case could only legally be used in an extradition, but not in a U.K. trial, and that British prosecutors have not seen all of the existing evidence, making charging Ahmad with an offense in the United Kingdom potentially very difficult (BBC).

Mehanna friends continue to testify in trial

Daniel Maldonado, a former friend of Tarek Mehanna, who is accused of providing material support to a terrorist group and attempting to travel to Yemen for terrorist training, testified in Mehanna’s trial for the third day on November 22, telling the court that Mehanna had encouraged Maldonado not to travel to Somalia for terrorist training in 2006 (Boston Globe). Another former friend of Mehanna, Kareem Abuzahra, testified on November 28 that he and Mehanna travelled with a third man – Ahmad Abousamra – to Yemen in 2004 to obtain terrorist training, saying waging jihad against the United States was their "duty" (Boston Globe). Abuzahra also told the court that the men had discussed shooting civilians at a U.S. mall, attacking a U.S. Air Force base, and shooting prominent U.S. officials (AP).  

The attorney for Mansour J. Arbabsiar, who is accused of plotting to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States by detonating a bomb at a restaurant, plans to challenge the prosecution’s assertion that Arbabsiar confessed to the plot and freely handed over information on Iran’s role in it (NYT). Arbabsiar waived his right to have a lawyer present, and confessed during the 12 days that he was detained before his hearing, a move his lawyer said should elicit "deep concern about the voluntariness of consent."

A federal judge in Massachusetts on November 27 denied bail to Rezwan Ferdaus, who is accused of plotting to fly remote control airplanes packed with explosives into the U.S. Capitol building and the Pentagon, citing Ferdaus’ "views and seeming dedication to his cause" (AFP, Reuters, Boston Globe, AP). 

U.S. looks to maintain custody of Iraq detainee

On November 22, the United States handed all of its remaining detainees in Iraq over to Iraqi security forces, except for one alleged Hezbollah commander, Ali Mussa Daqduq, who U.S. troops may hold until the end of the year according to a 2008 security agreement with Iraq (WSJ). The Obama administration wants to bring Daqduq back to the United States to face a military trial for allegedly masterminding the 2007 kidnapping and murder of five U.S. servicemen in Iraq, but if negotiations fail Daqduq will come under Iraqi control, and U.S. officials fear he may be released or transferred to Iran, which has also expressed interest in getting custody of him.

The United States Senate on November 28 looked at over 100 proposed amendments to the embattled National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which the Obama administration has threatened to veto over provisions requiring military custody of terrorist suspects and limiting the administration’s ability to transfer detainees from Guantánamo Bay to the U.S. (WSJ). Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on November 23 said in a letter to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein that the existing provisions "would introduce unnecessary rigidity" into the government’s effort to defend the nation’s security (Politico). FBI Director Robert Mueller added in a letter sent to lawmakers on November 28 that the bill could hamper "ongoing international terrorism investigations" (AP). And Lawfare Blog’s Benjamin Wittes looks at the pros and cons of an amendment proposed by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) that would neutralize the bill’s provisions concerning detainees (Lawfare).

Finally, the Council for American-Muslim Relations (CAIR) on November 25 asked the FBI to investigate posts on an anti-Islam website that call on Christians to "kill every Muslim twice" and bomb mosques, mentioning one Northern Virginia mosque in particular (AP). The manager of the site, Bare Naked Islam, identified herself as a New York City resident called Bonni, and said "wishing for all mosques to be blown up is not a threat in my opinion."

Trials and Tribulations

  • Police in Palu, Indonesia arrested three suspected terrorists and seized several weapons on November 25 as part of an ongoing investigation (Jakarta Post).
  • The Helsinki District Court on November 22 ruled to keep a suspected terrorist of Somali descent in custody during the run-up to his trial (Local). The unnamed suspect is accused along with three others of financing terrorism and recruiting terrorists for Somali militant group al-Shabaab.
  • A senior Jordanian official said on November 27 that Jordan’s King Abdullah II had pardoned 46 prisoners convicted on terrorism-related charges, all of whom have served at least half of their sentences, in a "gesture of good will" (AP).
Jennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.

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